Wednesday, September 3, 2008

CDC Assessment Initiative Conference

Dr. Littenberg organized a panel discussion at the annual Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Assessment Initiative Conference. This conference brings together public health officials from around the country to share ideas and accomplishments regarding the assessment of public health. There are a variety of tools for this purpose including the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which is the world’s largest ongoing telephone health survey. It has been continuously administered in every state since 1994, and in some states as far back as 1984. States use BRFSS data to identify emerging health problems, establish and track health objectives, and develop and evaluate public health policies and programs. Many states also use BRFSS data to support health-related legislative efforts. Presenters at the Assessment Initiative Conference discussed ways to make this information more available to policymakers, researchers and the public. Other conference presenters discussed topics such as novel ways to assess hard to reach populations, the role of assessment in promoting community action, and ways to link data from various sources in order to paint a more complete picture of the health of the population.

Dr. Littenberg’s panel was entitled Using the Clinical Laboratory for Public Health Surveillance of Chronic Disease. Dr. MacLean discussed the Vermont Diabetes Information Study and described the collection of lab data from disparate sources, creating a chronic disease registry, and providing decision support. Dr. Fernando Guerra, Directory of Public Health, San Antonio Metro Health District discussed the use of the Vermedx technology to create an A1C registry for San Antonio. Dr. MacLean then discussed the ethical, legal, and social implications of chronic disease surveillance, highlighting the experience in Vermont, New York City and San Antonio. Edward W. Gregg, PhD, acting chief, Epidemiology and Statistics Branch of the Division of Diabetes Translation at the CDC presented on the CDC’s diabetes surveillance system and the potential for adding laboratory based surveillance to this system.

This was a great opportunity to think about the bigger picture of how we assess the health of our various communities, ranging from the local to the national level. What would a network of labs contributing results to a central database be able to tell about regional variation and quality of care for chronic disease such as diabetes?

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